The Story Behind The Legendary Wrecking Crew


By B. Noel Barr, Music Writer Dude

In that mythical land we all call Hollywood, the glamorous and the infamous all find a place around those who truly are artists. The music business, like film, has built an industry off of iconic figures. This is a melting pot of sorts where the magic is served in large doses with a great deal of suspect and irony.

Throughout the past 100 years of recorded music it was the talent that put everyone’s attention on notice that something great was happening. The talent, however, may not be the pretty face on the cover of the dust jacket. A lot of the times, it was the men and women behind the scenes who make the art of what they are doing work.

Denny Tedesco, son of legendary session guitarist Tommy Tedesco, has made a documentary, The Wrecking Crew. The film is set to show, at 5 p.m. June 17, at the Grand Annex in San Pedro.

In the 1960s there was a period where one group, made up of spectacular musicians, who made the greatest run of hit records in music called “The Wrecking Crew.” The name was given to them by percussionist Hal Blaine, because he had heard record company executives complaining that these musicians were wrecking the entire industry. These dozen or so players were the cream, the first call players who everyone wanted on every session in town.

A large portion of the greatest recordings done in Los Angeles during the 1960s were made by The Wrecking Crew. The records they made are considered the classics of the period, along with the commercials, television shows and movies for which they produced music. These professional musicians were everywhere.

The Wrecking Crew has played with everyone, from those with questionable talent like Nancy Sinatra and her “These Boots are made for Walking” to the very skilled like The Byrds and their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” except for the Roger McGuinn parts.
The Wrecking Crew worked on hundreds of singles and albums in their heyday by groups like The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, the 5th Dimension, John Denver and Nat King Cole.

The Wrecking Crew was the “The West Coast Sound” and the sound of a couple of generations. Record producer Phil Spector used them to help create his “Wall of Sound.”

This was not the only great group of players that was working at the time, in the 1960s you had the Brooker T. and MG’s out of Memphis at Stax Records. You had the Swappers out of Muscle Shoals, Ala., who Jerry Wexler Ahmet Ertegun and the great producer engineer Tom Dowd laid down the first releases of Aretha Franklin on the Atlantic label there. In Detroit, Motown had the Funk Brothers, who made everything that Berry Gordy produced.

The Wrecking Crew originally, known as the “The First Call Gang” or “The Clique,” back in the late 50s, was made up professionals like Earl Palmer, Mel Pollen, Bill Aken, Barney Kessel and Al Casey. Later it became a more extended version of the Who’s Who of future recording stars like Glenn Campbell, Tommy Tedesco, Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon, Dr. John and Leon Russell, Jim Horn – Rolling Stones, Derek and The Dominoes. This is a very deep list of names so many that you know and may have heard of it are impossible to list.

This is a must see film for music buff’s or those who want to wax poetic over a long gone era. Here is a chance to celebrate some the greatest music of a generation all wrapped up in a little film that will leave you smiling from ear to ear.



  1. Great article but fails to mention that it was Ray Pohlman who formed “The First Call Gang” with our home base being the General Services Studio on Las Palmas Street in Hollywood.

    Ray was my mentor, teacher, and friend who always demanded the very best from all of us and he deserves credit for starting THE WHOLE THING !!!!

    • The musician in question was only mentioned in passing in the film. I did a little research and found out about the guys who preceded the Crew. The focus of the film is on the discussions of five members of the crew. The man in question was not in that group for the film. However, I believe his photo and maybe dialogue was included. So if he did start the whole thing, that would need more research to write something more complete about this unsung member. I’m sorry the guy was not the focus of the film or my piece.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.